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Court-Martial Punishments

Posted by Ernesto Gapasin | Aug 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Although the court-martial process is never enjoyed by the accused, it is particularly nerve-racking when you don't know what to expect. To reduce the unfamiliarity and unpredictability of the situation, you should consult with an attorney and discuss potential outcomes. The possible ramifications could be dire, after all, and understanding their severity will aid in your preparation. Although we recently discussed how rare it is for a military crime to be punished by death, that doesn't mean that court-martial punishments are overly lenient or forgiving. Let's review the possibilities . . .

Court-Martial Punishments

As you may already know, there are three different types of court-martial:

  • Summary Court-Martial: Summary courts-martial are used to review minor charges against members of the military.
  • Special Court-Martial: Special courts-martial are intermediate trials in which members of the military accused of less major offenses (i.e., misdemeanors) as well as some military-specific offenses (like going AWOL) are tried.
  • General Court-Martial: General courts-martial are reserved for the most serious offenses (e.g., felonies).

And as you might expect, the potential punishments escalate as you move from summary courts-martial to special courts-martial to general courts-martial. Let's delve into some of the maximum punishments possible:

In a summary court-martial, the maximum punishment varies with the accused's pay grade:

  • Members of the military in pay grade E-4 or below can be sentenced to 30 days of confinement, hard labor for 45 days or less, restriction for two months (or less), forfeiture of 2/3 pay per month (for one month or less), or reduction to pay grade E-1.
  • Members of the military in pay grade E-5 or higher face similar punishments, but there are fewer possibilities. They can face restriction for two months (or less), forfeiture of 2/3 pay per month (for one month or less), or a reduction of one pay grade.

In a special court-martial, the punishments are limited to a forfeiture of two-thirds basic pay per month for one year, one year of confinement (or less, depending on the offense), and/or a bad-conduct discharge. The accused cannot be punished by death, dishonorable discharge, confinement for more than one year, hard labor (without confinement) for more than three months, forfeiture of pay exceeding 2/3 pay per month, or any forfeiture of pay that lasts for more than one year.

In a general court-martial, the maximum punishment is restricted by the offense. To learn the maximum punishment for your offense, look it up in the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM). Potential punishments can include confinement, dishonorable discharge, bad conduct discharge, dismissal, and even death.


To better understand the potential punishments you face, discuss your situation with an experienced attorney. Taking into account the type of court-martial and your specific crime, your attorney can prepare your case and provide you with a realistic prediction for your future.

Whether you've been accused of a minor wrongdoing or a serious military crime, contact the top-quality military lawyers at Newsom & Gapasin for help. Our experienced and aggressive law firm focuses on winning tough cases, some of which have been reported on by national media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Time, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. For more information, please give us a call at 1-(888) 919-8265 , send an e-mail to [email protected], or click here to contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Ernesto Gapasin



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